Op-eds

Is Pakistan's Democrazy Under Threat? Op-ed by Ahmed Humayun (F08)

Foreign Policy

Although he won a big mandate last year at Pakistan's polls, Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister of Pakistan and head of the ruling party, the Pakistan Muslim league (PML-N), is under siege at home. The country's vociferous media is hyping up the clash between Sharif and Imran Khan, Sharif's foremost political challenger and the head of the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), who is organizing a "long march" on Islamabad on Pakistan's upcoming Independence Day on August 14. Meanwhile, Tahirul Qadri, the influential Pakistani-Canadian preacher, has announced a competing "Revolution" march on the same day to overthrow the political system. Widespread discontent at Sharif's performance in office to date and the determination of the security establishment to avoid ceding primacy to civilian rule has added to the sense of a looming political crisis. 

Sharif made extravagant promises during the 2013 electoral campaign that have yet to be fulfilled. For example, the delivery of basic services remains dismal across the board -- in particular, the severe energy shortage shows no sign of resolution. Another problem is that political power is excessively centralized. Sharif and his closest associates call the shots on all major initiatives, which has reduced the pool of available technocratic expertise and made the regime vulnerable to the charge of crony governance. Sharif himself has been disengaged from parliament, appearing a mere seven times in the national assembly over the course of the first parliamentary year. And much needed economic reforms that could result in job creation and significant economic growth -- such as the widening of the tax base -- have yet to be undertaken, in part due to the fear of political fallout.

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